NEW YORK -- Former New York Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday cleared up his awkward endorsement of Scott Stringer in the New York City comptroller campaign, refusing to criticize Eliot Spitzer -- Stringer's opponent and Paterson's former boss.

Campaigning with Stringer on Monday in Harlem, Paterson delivered a mealymouthed explanation of why voters should cast their ballot for Stringer.

"Scott Stringer is a good choice on his own. There doesn't have to be a comparison," Paterson said. Pressed about why Stringer over Spitzer, Paterson said in Newsday, "Because I endorsed him." Asked again, Paterson said, "I'm not going to answer the question why they should choose Scott over Eliot."

Things were hunky-dory on Tuesday, when Stringer appeared on the evening talk show Paterson co-hosts with Curtis Sliwa, on radio station AM 970.

"He's much loved, but underpaid. He can't go into a race and throw money at it," Paterson said on his "Curtis and the Gov" show. "At this moment and at this time, it's Scott Stringer."

Paterson said his support for the Manhattan borough president is "unequivocal."

"The person that works the hardest and the person that's been out there the longest is usually the winner," Paterson said.

Paterson's weak embrace of Stringer owed to his close ties with Spitzer that carried him to the governor's mansion. He was Spitzer's lieutenant governor and succeeded him when a prostitution scandal forced Spitzer from office in 2008.

"There are media outlets who can't wait for me to say something negative about the former governor," Paterson said on the radio. "He understands that Scott is my candidate and I understand that he did a great deal for me."

Stringer said on the radio that Spitzer wasn't the embattled politician he expected to compete against for the Democratic nomination.

"I always felt that for the office of comptroller, I'd have a competitive primary," Stringer said. "We always thought Anthony Wiener would run for comptroller."

Spitzer's spokesman didn't respond to HuffPost's inquiries, but told Newsday on Monday: "Eliot considers David a good friend, but from the beginning we've made it clear that the only endorsement Eliot is seeking is that of New Yorkers on Sept. 10."

A poll last week showed Spitzer has built a strong 19-point lead over Stringer. That support was strongest among black voters, who gave Spitzer a 3-to-1 edge.

The foes have engaged in a bitter campaign since Spitzer stunned the world of New York politics by plunging into the comptroller's race last month.

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